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What He Must Be (Headed Toward)

October 3, 2013

Voddie Baucham’s What He Must Be… if He wants to Marry my Daughter contains the following section headings in a chapter summarizing the roles a young man “must be” ready to fulfill to be ready to marry:

  • He Must Be a Protector – having Personal Holiness, True Gentleness, Great Resolve, Genuine Compassion, True Bravery
  • He Must Be a Provider – having a Job, Work Ethic, a Plan
  • He Must Be a Prophet and Priest – Praying for and Preaching to His Family

I agree wholeheartedly with being purposeful in raising our sons, and being cautious in approving husbands for our daughters. And I have been blessed significantly hearing Dr. Baucham in person and through his other books, especially Family Driven Faith. Having said that, I am troubled by the “must have” approach on the points above and the general tone of much of the discussion in Patriarchy circles about “requirements” fathers have in mind when screening potential suitors for their daughters.

I am not troubled at the ideals described, which are well-described standards toward which we should all aim; what troubles me is concreting these ideals in the language of “he must”. I love my daughters; it is my responsibility to insure that they do not settle for unhappy or unequally-yoked marriages. But precisely because I love my daughters, I also want it to be possible that young men may qualify for my courtship criteria – and importantly, to feel optimistic that they may qualify – to court my daughters.

Read through again the criteria above of what Dr. Baucham suggests that fathers require of a potential suitor for their daughters. While it may not be mathematically impossible that a young man would meet these criteria before reaching 30+ years of age, I believe that the tone in which they are set will make that incredibly unlikely.

We do not want to overprotect our daughters from being poorly matched to such an extent that they are never matched at all

To his credit, Dr. Baucham acknowledges that basically zero young men will match his criteria. In a later chapter of the book, though, his solution is to “grow” qualified husbands for his daughters by mentoring interested young men until they reach sufficient spiritual maturity. With due respect, this strikes me as naive in the extreme, to believe that very many young men would assent to a mentorship relationship – during which time he agrees to remain pure and to keep his dreams of family life completely on hold – in exchange for only the potential chance that he will one day be judged “grown sufficiently” to cross the Rubicon. Most of us have heard courtship “horror stories” in which young men are rejected from a courtship after a period of mentorship like this, after which the young man is now older and far more jaded about pursuing a courtship preparation mentorship (or even courtship itself) ever again.

We need to mentally adjust for maturity “trajectory” for young men just as we do young women

When we judge a young lady as “ready for marriage” we’re rightly envisioning a beginning married life – managing a small household with no children for a time. We realize that if she can handle that responsibility, she will mature through the years in her marriage to handle more and more responsibility as children are born, then reach the age to be home-educated, etc. We are not imagining a household life with 8 children of varying ages when we think about a 20-year-old young lady being “ready”.

We make this kind of mental adjustment on the income scale for young men as well, but most parents make it in very few if any of the other criteria as listed above. All husbands and fathers can attest to the absolute truth that being married – and then having children – in themselves bring us to a more mature understanding of life, our responsibilities and Christian doctrine. Why then should we require full maturity before a courtship even begins – holding them to a standard that no father could ever have matched himself at that age?

Some criteria for suitors is absolutely appropriate, but it must be reasonable and fair

True salvation, a Christian character and Reformed worldview will bear the fruit that needs to be borne in later years as the Holy Spirit works in the young man’s heart. These seem indisputable criteria to me since they are prerequisite to Christian sanctification and not gained via experience. They are foundational to how a young man has been raised.

Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house. — Proverbs 24:27

This Biblical requirement must also be added, specifically that a man prepare his fields before building his household – i.e. be in a position to support a family solely and sufficiently from day 1. If a young lady’s paycheck outside the home would be needed initially for ends to meet, the young man has work to do in improving his earning potential or creating a family economy – particularly as society sees the collapse of the middle class.

The Patriarchy movement and the Church as a whole see far too many women still single into their 30s

What a tragic thing for a girl who has grown up understanding the blessing of children and dreaming of motherhood, to be denied married life and motherhood completely or for the first 10+ years of her child-bearing years. We cannot allow Christian marriage to be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

Of course, training young men has to be taken seriously, and the failures on that front are no doubt partially to blame for some of this epidemic. Of course, we must have criteria like the ones I suggest above, or even to see a young man on the “trajectory” toward those Dr. Baucham describes.

But my challenge to the courtship-minded Christian community is this: let us not make the problem worse by erecting unfair standards against which fathers feel we should be comparing suitors.

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